Introducing the Walls
Chester is the jewel of north-west England. This beautiful city has a very special atmosphere, and exploring the historic City Walls is one of the best ways to appreciate it to the full. You’ll get great views, and you’ll discover amazing stories along the way. You’ll be following in the footsteps of monarchs and merchants, soldiers and socialites.
The Romans built the first city walls to protect their fortress of Deva. In the Middle Ages these walls were gradually strengthened and extended to the river, and by around 1500 Chester was one of the most strongly defended cities in the country.
In the Middle Ages people relied on strong walls to keep them and their property safe in a dangerous world, and many cities were surrounded by walls. But by around 1750 the country had become more peaceful, so city walls became less important. Sometimes they even became an obstacle to progress, because they limited space for building within the city, and they made it more difficult for people to travel and trade freely. Many city authorities demolished their old walls, and sadly they destroyed a lot of their cities’ heritage and character in the process. Unlike many other cities, Chester has preserved its Walls, and they’ve become a time capsule. Archaeologists continue to make exciting new discoveries around the Walls, and every find increases our understanding of Chester’s past. This rare Anglo-Saxon silver coin was found near the Walls in 1914.
The needs of local people have gradually evolved, and the Walls have been adapted to keep pace with them. The biggest changes took place in the late 18th century, when the old fortifications were transformed into a walkway for genteel promenading. Where soldiers had patrolled in the past, fashionable ladies and gentlemen now strolled.
The Walls have an exotic past. They’re built from sandstone blocks that were once loose sand in a tropical desert, 250 million years ago. Sandstone has been quarried and used for building in Chester since Roman times, and its distinctive colour has become emblematic of the city’s identity.
The people of Chester have always been proud of their Walls. The Walls are a lasting symbol of the city’s identity, and for local people they’re part of their idea of home. Chester would not be Chester without its Walls.